Property battle on the Horizon in Tahoe

Citing health and safety issues, the owner of land underneath the Horizon Casino Resort in Stateline filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court on Tuesday asking for an eviction.

The suit was in response to a pre-emptive lawsuit filed earlier this month by Horizon owner Wimar Tahoe Corp. That challenge, filed Nov. 8, alleges the property owner, Park Cattle Co., harassed the casino owners by demanding unnecessary repairs, relative to their shared lease.

Park countered with a legal challenge of its own Tuesday, saying the casino owners breached their lease because of what it called faulty maintenance at the 539-room resort next to Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

The latest cross complaint is 70 pages long, and details alleged deficiencies from water damage and mold growth to inadequate emergency lighting and a deteriorating roof.

Using 26 claims of relief, Park Cattle Co. attorney Steve Meyer said the Stateline-based property holder seeks at least $20 million to repair the premises. Park, which homesteaded land in the Carson Valley in 1871, also holds leases with Harveys Lake Tahoe and Caesars Tahoe. The latter is owned by Columbia Sussex; Wimar Tahoe Corp. is an affiliate of Columbia Sussex.

The Horizon-Park Cattle's 90-year lease was signed in 1962, when Horizon operated as Sahara-Tahoe. Wimar's lease began in 1990, with an agreement it would maintain the hotel.

"We're not saying the building is going down, but the problems (with the property) go to the bones of the building," Meyer said, adding the Park company fears liability issues.

The company conducted an inspection in March in which "severe cracks" were found in the structure, Meyer said.

Joe Yung, a company executive and son of Columbia Sussex chairman William Yung, said the counter-suit has "absolutely zero" basis of merit against his affiliate Wimar. But his company's complaint was filed "to bring to a conclusion with Park Cattle Co. allegations that we're not bringing the building up to standard."

Yung declined to comment further, except to point to the Park family's turbulent relationship with its former president, Bruce Park. In his Oct. 5 complaint, Park claims he was wrongfully ousted and wants to place the company into receivership and liquidate its assets.

The complaint filed by Wimar on Nov. 8 seeks a restraining order to prevent Park from terminating a 1990 lease agreement. Columbia Sussex received a dozen letters between March and August claiming the physical condition of the building constituted default of the lease. One letter suggested that it would be better to simply demolish the casino and garage.

Tahoe Douglas Fire Marshall Rick Nicholson said he inspected the property in March and concluded he found "run-of-the-mill stuff - but nothing that would make the building unsafe."

Nicholson pointed to sloppy spray painting over sprinkler heads, outdated stove hoods in the kitchen and too much debris in storage areas.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board performs inspections of casino surveillance systems, but not structural evaluations.

This challenge appears to not have any effect on the Columbia Sussex buyout of Caesars Tahoe in June, as regulatory agencies required Park Cattle Co.'s approval before the transaction took place.

n Record -Courier editor Kurt Hildebrand contributed to this report.


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